Most people, religious or not, live by a standard called the Silver Rule. They will also teach their children to do the same. The Silver Rule basically says, “If you do not want something done to you, then do not do it to others.” It is good, practical advice. Just about every religion has an element of this.
However, Jesus was radical and took the standard to a whole other level. He taught the Golden Rule, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Jesus took the passive concept of the Silver Rule and called believers to live out their faith by loving others.
1. What are some practical examples for today on how we can practice the Golden Rule?
In John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is the identifier for followers of Christ.
John says this also for children of God, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).
Instead of love, how do some “believers” finish the statement, “They will know we are Christians by our _________.”
2. How is godly love demonstrated so that it is clear to the world we are children of God?
“Those in the circle of Christ had no doubt of his love;
those in our circles should have no doubt about ours.”
I am not a Pomologist (the branch of botany that studies fruit trees). However, whenever I grab an apple from a tree, I am dogmatic that it is an apple tree. If I take an orange, then I would argue that it is an orange tree. John says that our fruit (works) reflects or represents the tree (the source).
In verses 4-10, John challenges our actions, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”
3. If someone is a follower of Jesus, what will he stop doing (the goal)? Also, what will he continue to do?
4. What was the reason for the Son of God appearing?
5. What does that mean?
John is slightly redundant as he reminds us to love one another, “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:11-15).
6. Who was Cain? What were some of his sins?
“Do not waste time bothering whether
you ‘love’ your neighbor;
act as if you did.”
In James 2:15-17, Paul says that our faith must include action, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
John agrees with Paul as he states in 1 John 3:16-18, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
7. How is 1 John 3:16 similar to John 3:16?
8. How is faith without works dead?
“What does love look like?
It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.
It has eyes to see misery and want.
It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.
That is what love looks like.”
God sees our actions and knows our hearts. Love must overflow. Our love for God should drip on those around us. John continues, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:19-24).
9. How does John summarize the commandments?
10. Who are you choosing to show love to this week? How?
“Where Love is, God is.”